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What is the value of human life? So many atheist thinkers argue it is nothing. Life has no value. Confronting this destructive ideology, the five videos below feature talks by Richard Weikart given at the European Leadership Forum in 2018. ,These talks deal with material in his book, “The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life.”

Is Human Life a Cosmic Accident?

Since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, atheist and agnostic thinkers (i.e., materialists and positivists) have considered everything, including humans, as merely the product of accidental processes. This means that human life no longer has any value or moral significance. This talk examines the way that many thinkers, such as the eminent British philosopher Bertrand Russell, espoused this view, but also contradicted themselves by implying that humans are important.

Is Human Life a Cosmic Accident?: Atheists' Contradictory Position - Richard Weikart - YouTube
Does Darwinism Devalue Human Life?

Many aspects of Darwinian theory have implications for the value of human life, and Darwinists themselves have acknowledged this. Darwinian theory rejects teleology, and often reduces humans to just another animal. Many Darwinists consider morality itself the product of chance evolutionary processes. Human evolution also implies human diversity, which has led many to embrace human inequality. Finally, Darwinism implies that death is a positive force in the universal struggle for existence.

Does Darwinism Devalue Human Life? - Richard Weikart - YouTube
Did my genes make me do it?

The notion that human behavior is shaped primarily by our hereditary predispositions has become a powerful force in Western thought in the past century. Many sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists today claim that behaviors, such as kindness, marital bonding, and self-sacrifice, but also marital infidelity, incest, infanticide, abortion, and even rape are programmed into our psyche by our evolutionary heritage. This reduces human agency and relativizes morality.

My Genes Made Me Do It: Biological Determinism - Richard Weikart - YouTube
Did my upbringing make me do it?

Secular thinkers who reject biological determinism often embrace the view that human behavior is primarily the product of our upbringing and education. This became a powerful current in the nineteenth century, influencing Marxism and other forms of socialism. The behaviorist psychologists John Watson and B. F. Skinner powerfully promoted this idea in the twentieth century, claiming that humans are little more than a machine responding to stimuli. This view still has many prominent adherents in the social sciences.

My Upbringing Made Me Do It: Environmental Determinism - Richard Weikart - YouTube
Did Nietzsche, Foucault, and Postmodernism open the door for the Death of Humanity?

Nietzsche, subsequent existentialists, Foucault, and other postmodernists have contributed to the secular assault on the Judeo-Christian sanctity-of-life ethic. Nietzsche had utter contempt for the masses of humanity and argued that Superman figures should oppress and even eradicate those deemed inferior. Foucault admitted that the Nietzschean death of God also meant the death of humanity, and Foucault glamorized suicide as a result. Both existentialists and postmodernists reject any human rights or objective morality.

Nietzsche, Foucault, Postmodernism, and the Death of Humanity - Richard Weikart - YouTube
Richard Weikart, Ph.D.

Professor of Modern European History

Richard Weikart is professor of modern European history at California State University, Stanislaus,and Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He has published six books, including most recently The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life and Hitler’sReligion. He has also published extensively on the history of evolutionary ethics, eugenics, social Darwinism, euthanasia, and scientific racism. He has been featured in several documentaries,including Ben Stein’s Expelled, as well as on many radio programs. He recently produced a documentary to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation called Exploring the Reformation and Revivals in Germany, which is available on youtube.

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Off the Cuff #44: The Morality of Migration - YouTube

The guys continue their series through the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments with a discussion of Seyla Benhabib’s chapter on citizenship: The Morality of Migration. Benhabib argues that President Obama’s DREAM Act was a moral good based on human rights laws. Ward, Leroy and Joe discuss these political theories in light of President Trump’s reversal of Obama’s policy and offer insight from a Christian worldview.

Chapter & Author

This week’s show is built around argument #42 in Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments entitled, “The Morality of Migration.” The author is Seyla Benhabib who, according to her official Yale bio, “is the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University and was Director of the Program in Ethics, Politics and Economics (2002-2008). Professor Benhabib was the President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in 2006-07, a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin in 2009, at the NYU Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice in Spring 2012, and at the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Academy in Washington DC in Spring 2013.”

Benhabib’s Argument

Benhabib argues that President Barack Obama’s executive order to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who came into the United States illegally as minors (DREAM Act) was the act of a responsible politician. Obama properly balanced, Benhabib says, the USA’s special obligation to hospitality with two moral principles established by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the right of humans to peacefully cross borders and the right of a government of the people to control their borders.

Key Quotes for Today

Migrations pit two moral and legal principles, foundational to the modern state system, against each other. On one hand, the human right of individuals to move across borders whether for economic, personal or professional reasons or to seek asylum and refuge is guaranteed by Articles 13 and 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the other hand, Article 21 of the declaration recognizes a basic right to self-government, stipulating that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.” Under the current regime of states, that fundamental right includes control over borders as well as determining who is to be a citizen as distinguished from a resident or an alien (p. 230).

and

Why not advocate a “world without borders” then? From a moral point of view, no child deserves to be born on one side of the border rather than another, and it is deeply antithetical to our moral principles to punish individuals for what they cannot help being or doing. Punishment implies responsibility and accountability for one’s actions and choices; clearly, children who through their parents’ choices end up on one side of the border rather than another cannot be penalized for these choices (p. 230).

and

If conditions in a person’s native country so endanger his life and well-being and he becomes willing to risk illegality in order to survive, his right to survival, from a moral point of view, carries as much weight as does the new country’s claim to control borders against migrants. Immanuel Kant, therefore, called the moral claim to seek refuge or respite in the lands of another, a “universal right of hospitality,” provided that the intentions of the foreigner upon arriving on foreign lands were peaceful. Such a right, he argued, belonged to each human being placed on this planet who had to share the earth with others (p. 231)…. These claims of interdependence require a third moral principle—in addition to the right of universal hospitality and the right to self-government—to be brought into consideration: associative obligations among peoples arising through historical factors (p. 231–232).

and

The United States owes these young people a special duty of hospitality, not only because we, as a society, have benefited from the circumstances under which their parents entered this country, but also because they have formed strong affiliations with this society through being our friends, students, neighbors and coworkers…. Migratory movements are sites of imperfect justice in that they bring into play the individual right to freedom of movement, the universal right to hospitality and the right of collectives to self-government as well as specific associative moral obligations (p. 232).

Related Stories or Books DACA Is Unconstitutional, as Obama Admitted

President Donald Trump has caught a lot of heat for rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program with a six-month wind-down. Few people seem aware that he’s ending an administrative amnesty for illegal aliens that President Barack Obama lacked the constitutional and legal authority to implement.

How do we know? Because even Obama admitted it – repeatedly.

Responding in October 2010 to demands that he implement immigration reforms unilaterally, Obama declared, “I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself.” In March 2011, he said that with “respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case.” In May 2011, he acknowledged that he couldn’t “just bypass Congress and change the (immigration) law myself. … That’s not how a democracy works.”

read more…

DACA Is and Will Always Be Constitutional

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been an unqualified success.

Since its creation five years ago, it has allowed nearly 800,000 young men and women who came to this country as children — or Dreamers — to attend school, support their families, buy homes, begin careers, contribute to their communities, and pursue their dreams. DACA has been a major driver of economic growth for cities and states that reap the benefits of new tax dollars from DACA recipients’ large purchases and new jobs. It’s no surprise then that nearly 78 percent of American voters agree that Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the country.

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The U.S. Supreme Court and Obama’s Immigration Actions

The Supreme Court split 4-4 in a June 23, 2016 decision and affirmed a lower court’s ruling blocking one of the president’s deferred action programs, known as DAPA. The one-page judgment issued by the court did not set a legal precedent but effectively kept millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States under the threat of deportation. The decision was a deep setback for the White House. The article below previewed the case.

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The Morality of Migration BY SEYLA BENHABIB JULY 29, 2012 5:00 PM

[This is Benhabib’s original article reprinted in the book] In announcing the Department of Homeland Security’s policy directive on June 15 stating that undocumented migrant youths who meet certain conditions would no longer be deported, President Obama said that “It was the right thing to do.” What he did not say was whether he meant “the right thing” legally or morally.

Obviously, he considered the action to be legal, even though this invocation of his administration’s power drew strong criticism from many, including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But the president’s grounds for believing it moral were much less clear.

read more..

About this Series

Our universities, grade schools, and media are led by a diversity of thinkers who are each, in their own way, advancing a fundamental “rethink” of how we do Ethics: a titanic shift that will forever change the way you and I experience daily life. The one unifying theme which connects this hodgepodge of ethical theories is the desire to marginalize Christian thinkers dedicated to orthodoxy and remove from the public square any meaningful discussion of the Judeo-Christian worldview. What consequences may come from this social-experiment on Western civilization, nobody knows for sure, but the guys have some ideas on what lies ahead. Given the virulence of this moral seed-change, Leroy, Ward and Joe decided to create a series of videocasts dedicated to exposing the barrenness of this new ethical adventure.  The framework for this series is built around the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments: A Stone Reader which was adapted from the NY Times columns of various Philosophers and thinkers hoping to lead this naturalist-revolution. You may be new to Off the Cuff, so feel free to catch up on past episodes. We also encourage listeners to get a copy of the book, read ahead for each week’s show, and join our live broadcast with you questions and insights.

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I have noticed it getting harder and harder to read the print in most paper books these past couple years. It is a bit discouraging, but it makes me thankful for digital books so I can make he font big and keep reading.
 
If anyone is interested in supported my PhD studies in ethics on the topic of personhood and racial reconciliation, I’m sharing my book list with you on Amazon. Any Kindle books you can send to me are appreciated.
 
My email for making the gift purchase is joe[AT]emerginglife[DOT]org
 

To purchase a Kindle book as a gif here are the Amazon instructions:

  1. From the Kindle Store in your desktop browser, select the book you want to purchase as a gift.Note: Free books, books on pre-order, and subscriptions cannot be gifted at this time.
  2. On the product detail page, click the Buy for others button.
  3. Enter the personal email address of your gift recipient.
    Tip: If you are unsure of the email address for your recipient, you can select Email the gift to mebefore placing your order. This allows you to forward the gift email or print and personally deliver it to your recipient. The gift recipient can enter the Gift Claim Code from the email, after logging in to their Amazon account.
  4. Enter a delivery date and an optional gift message.
  5. Click Place your order to finish your gift purchase using your Amazon 1-Click payment method.
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“Never mistake motion for action.”

– Ernest Hemingway

I remember clearly one Christmas Eve, many years ago, when our city was hit with a huge snow storm. Road travel was dangerous, at least 100 people had come to worship, but the Senior Pastor was expecting at least 500. We, the leadership, stood in the office waiting to see who would come and marveling at the falling snow. The Senior Pastor walked in, obviously disappointed at the low turnout, and said, “Do you think we should cancel the service?” I could not believe my ears, here we were with 100 adventurous people ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior, yet because the numbers were not high enough, the Senior Pastor was ready to cancel everything—as if doing a service for only 100 was not worthy of our time.

Fast forward from that long ago time to today at my Safeway job—I was sitting in an employee meeting when our store manager Dale emphasized again the importance of putting the customer first. The idea is that the work we do in stocking the shelves or sweeping up the floors is not the most important thing we do; the most important thing is serving the customer. So when we are doing our daily jobs, we must always remember to put customer service above any task.

I could not help but relate this ideal to my years of church ministry.

When did church become more about the job?

When did getting the right numbers become the measure of success over the growing of disciples?

I have to confess that as a church planter, I can not help but be a little hurt when people fail to show up to a meeting. So am I not guilty of the same thing that shocked me so many years ago on that snowy Christmas Eve? Why am I bothered by the people who don’t show up, when I should be focused on serving the ones who do?

I think the church can learn a lot from the Safeway ideal of Service Over Task. 

But will we? 

Will I?

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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“I discovered I always have choices
and sometimes it’s only a choice of attitude.”
— Judith M. Knowlton

I was recently talking to a wonderful lady who is in the hospital and may not live. In the midst of her pain, the one thing she was happy for was that her future was unknown. How is it she can be happy not to know if she will live or die? Maybe being so close to death she understands better than the rest of us that we are not in control of our own destiny.

Yes, I think ignorance is bliss, but only when you love a God in whom you can have total trust to love you back. There is a lot of uncertainty in my own life right now, and to be honest I am glad that God is keeping me deaf, dumb and blind to my future.

Will Mt. Rainier blow up and kill us? Will the funding for our church plant come in so we can pay our bills? How will I be able to balance, work, school, family, and ministry and still keep my sanity?

If it was not for the fact that I can enjoy my ignorance, I think I would go crazy with all these questions. In fact, it is my ignorance of the future that enables me to live for Him in the now.

Truthfully, I think it is probably a curse, not a blessing, to know too much about my future. Look at the Apostle Paul. When he was blinded on the road to Damascus, he went on to wait for God’s messenger and in that time he was given a vision of everything he would have to suffer in the years that lay ahead. No wonder he described himself as always having a “thorn in the flesh”! I think that vision of his future was probably God’s punishment for him killing Christians. Can you imagine knowing that you would be beaten, tortured, shipwrecked, and imprisoned before you said “yes” to following God? Would any of us say “yes” to God if we knew how much we might have to suffer for His sake?

Today, I am glad to know nothing about my future except that my Father will be there when I arrive.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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Off the Cuff #43: Questions for Free-Market Moralists - YouTube

The guys continue their series through the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments with a discussion of Amia Srinivasan’s chapter on government: Questions for Free-Market Moralists. Srinivasan argues that Nozick’s Free Market moralism is flawed and therefore.it is more reasonable to accept Rawls’ model of social justice. Ward, Leroy and Joe discuss these political theories. and offer an alternative from a Christian worldview.

Chapter & Author

This week’s show is built around argument #35 in Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments entitled, “Questions for Free-Market Moralists.” The author is Amia Srinivasan who is currently a professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford, and a tutorial fellow at St John’s College. Previously I was a (permanent) lecturer in the UCL Philosophy Department and a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Srinivasan is an associate editor of the philosophy journal Mind and her current book project is The Contingent World: Epistemology, Genealogy, and Politics is about the way in which our beliefs, concepts and values are shaped by the contingencies of history, culture and evolution.

Srinivasan’s Argument

Srinivasan argues that there are two competing political theories governing the morality of the US economic system. The first was proposed in 1971 by John Rawls in his book, “A Theory of Justice” in which he penned a defense of modern liberalism advocating wealth redistribution. Rawls’ ideal moral economics was governed by a blind reason that guaranteed a reasonable standard of living for everyone. The second competing theory is the system of economic justice advocated in 1974 by Robert Nozick in, “Anarchy, State and Utopia” which argued that unrestricted free-markets always produced the moral good. Srinivasan poses four questions which she argues show the irrationality of Nozickian free-market theory and demonstrates why society must bend toward Rawls’ vision of welfare liberalism.

Key Quotes for Today

Rawls and Nozick represent the two poles of mainstream Western political discourse: welfare liberalism and laissez-faire liberalism, respectively. (It’s hardly a wide ideological spectrum, but that’s the mainstream for you.) On the whole, Western societies are still more Rawlsian than Nozickian: they tend to have social welfare systems and redistribute wealth through taxation. But since the 1970s, they have become steadily more Nozickian. Such creeping changes as the erosion of the welfare state, the privatization of the public sphere and increased protections for corporations go along with a moral worldview according to which the free market is the embodiment of justice. This rise in Nozickian thinking coincides with a dramatic increase in economic inequality in the United States over the past five decades (pg. 191)…— @amiasrinivasan

and

If you’re going to buy Nozick’s argument, you must say yes to all four. But doing so isn’t as easy as it might first appear.

1. Is any exchange between two people in the absence of direct physical compulsion by one party against the other (or the threat thereof) necessarily free? If you say yes, then you think that people can never be coerced into action by circumstances that do not involve the direct physical compulsion of another person.

2. Is any free (not physically compelled) exchange morally permissible? If you say yes, then you think that any free exchange can’t be exploitative and thus immoral.

3. Do people deserve all they are able, and only what they are able, to get through free exchange? If you say yes, you think that what people deserve is largely a matter of luck

4. Are people under no obligation to do anything they don’t freely want to do or freely commit themselves to doing? If you say yes, then you think the only moral requirements are the ones we freely bring on ourselves — say, by making promises or contracts.(p. 193–195) — @amiasrinivasan

and

Thus Nozick’s view must be wrong: justice is not simply the unfettered exercise of the free market. Free market “morality” isn’t anything of the sort.

Some might object that these are extreme cases, and that all they show is that the market, to be fully moral, needs some tweaking. But to concede that there is more to freedom than consent, that there is such a thing as nonviolent exploitation, that people shouldn’t be rewarded and punished for accidents of birth, that we have moral obligations that extend beyond those we contractually incur — this is to concede that the entire Nozickian edifice is structurally unsound. The proponent of free market morality has lost his foundations….

Rejecting the Nozickian worldview requires us to reflect on what justice really demands (p. 196), — @amiasrinivasan

Related Stories or Books John Rawls, “A Theory of Justice”

Since it appeared in 1971, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice has become a classic. The author has now revised the original edition to clear up a number of difficulties he and others have found in the original book.

Rawls aims to express an essential part of the common core of the democratic tradition–justice as fairness–and to provide an alternative to utilitarianism, which had dominated the Anglo-Saxon tradition of political thought since the nineteenth century. Rawls substitutes the ideal of the social contract as a more satisfactory account of the basic rights and liberties of citizens as free and equal persons. “Each person,” writes Rawls, “possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.” Advancing the ideas of Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, and Lincoln, Rawls’s theory is as powerful today as it was when first published.

read more…

Robert Nozick, “Anarchy, State and Utopia”

Winner of the 1975 National Book Award, this classic work is updated for the first time in 30 years: Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a foundational text in classical liberal thought, in which Robert Nozick created the intellectual underpinnings for what is now known as libertarianism. In his exhortation to limit the state to only the most minimal possible role, Nozick stirred tremendous controversy in an era predisposed to look to government as the solution to social injustice.

When originally published in 1974, Anarchy, State, and Utopia was dismissed by many scholars as nothing more than a paean to the bourgeois status quo. But American politics have changed dramatically since then. Anarchy, State, and Utopia has become ever more relevant since the country has caught up with Nozick’s ideas–as Clinton proclaimed, “the era of big government is over.”

With fierce argumentation and meticulous logic, Robert Nozick gave birth to a new way of thinking about the relationship between the citizen and the state.

read more…

Teens who laughed and recorded a drowning man in his final moments won’t face charges

(CNN) Five teenagers who taunted a drowning man as they recorded his death in Florida will not face charges because by law they were not required to help.

In a video recorded last July, the teens — ages 14 to 19 — laughed as Jamel Dunn, 31, struggled to stay afloat in a pond near his family’s home in Cocoa, police said.

The teens taunted the man that he was “going to die” and said they were not going to help him. Instead, the teens chuckled as they recorded the victim’s final moments and posted the video on YouTube.

During a subsequent interview the teens admitted they were “smoking weed,” police said.
The Cocoa Police Department had recommended to the state attorney’s office that the group face charges of failure to report a death.

But last week the state attorney’s office announced that the group will not be criminally prosecuted.
“As previously acknowledged by the Cocoa Police Department and this office, there is no Florida law that requires a person to provide emergency assistance under the facts of this case,” said Todd Brown, a spokesman for the Office of the State Attorney.

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Legislating Morality: Good Samaritan and Duty to Rescue Laws

The popular sitcom  Seinfeld  ended its 9-season run in 1998 by sending its 4 main characters to prison for neglecting to assist a stranger who was being carjacked at gunpoint. Their “crime” took place in a small town in Massachusetts, and was said in the show to be part of the town’s new set of “Good Samaritan laws.” As a result of the airing of that episode, many people came to believe that it is legal, or even common, to be arrested for doing nothing to assist others in need.

The truth is that Good Samaritan laws do exist in all 50 states, but they are not what the writers of Seinfeld portrayed them as. Good Samaritan laws do not compel a person to take action for fear of legal recourse, but rather they protect them if, in the event of rendering aid, they accidentally harm someone. A common example of this might be improperly performing CPR to someone whose heart has stopped, or causing spinal damage by recklessly yanking someone from the wreckage of a car accident.

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HARRISON BERGERON in Welcome to the Monkey House: Stories by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

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Officers Had No Duty to Protect Students in Parkland Massacre, Judge Rules

The school district and sheriff’s office in the Florida county that is home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had no constitutional duty to protect the students there during the deadly February massacre, a federal judge has said in a ruling.

The decision was made in a lawsuit filed by 15 students who said they suffered trauma during the Feb. 14 attack in Parkland, Fla. A total of 17 students and staff members lost their lives; 17 others were injured.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, 20, the former Stoneman Douglas student who is accused of opening fire at the school on Valentine’s Day. He has pleaded not guilty, but his lawyers have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.

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John Stossel: San Francisco has become the slum by the bay — Bad laws cause city’s homeless crisis

San Francisco is one of the richest cities in the world. It’s given us music, technology and elegant architecture. Now it gives us filthy homeless encampments.One urban planner told me, “I just returned from the Tenderloin (a section of San Francisco). It’s worse than slums of India, Haiti, Africa!” San Francisco is one of the richest cities in the world. It’s given us music, technology and elegant architecture. Now it gives us filthy homeless encampments.

One urban planner told me, “I just returned from the Tenderloin (a section of San Francisco). It’s worse than slums of India, Haiti, Africa!” I’ve never seen slums in Africa, but I’ve seen them in Haiti and India. What I saw in San Francisco looked similar. As one local resident put it, “There’s shit everywhere. It’s just a mess out here.” There’s also lots of mental illness. One man told us, “Vampires are real. I’m paranoid as hell.” San Francisco authorities mostly leave the mentally ill to fend for themselves on the street.

Other vagrants complain about them. “They make it bad for people like us that hang out with a sign,” one beggar told us. San Francisco is a pretty good place to “hang out with a sign.” People are rarely arrested for vagrancy, aggressive panhandling or going to the bathroom in front of people’s homes. In 2015, there were 60,491 complaints to police, but only 125 people were arrested.

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Questions for Free-Market Moralists BY AMIA SRINIVASAN OCTOBER 20, 2013 5:00 PM

[This is Kelly’s original article reprinted in the book] In 1971 John Rawls published “A Theory of Justice,” the most significant articulation and defense of political liberalism of the 20th century. Rawls proposed that the structure of a just society was the one that a group of rational actors would come up with if they were operating behind a “veil of ignorance” — that is, provided they had no prior knowledge what their gender, age, wealth, talents, ethnicity and education would be in the imagined society. Since no one would know in advance where in society they would end up, rational agents would select a society in which everyone was guaranteed basic rights, including equality of opportunity. Since genuine (rather than “on paper”) equality of opportunity requires substantial access to resources — shelter, medical care, education — Rawls’s rational actors would also make their society a redistributive one, ensuring a decent standard of life for everyone.

read more..

About this Series

Our universities, grade schools, and media are led by a diversity of thinkers who are each, in their own way, advancing a fundamental “rethink” of how we do Ethics: a titanic shift that will forever change the way you and I experience daily life. The one unifying theme which connects this hodgepodge of ethical theories is the desire to marginalize Christian thinkers dedicated to orthodoxy and remove from the public square any meaningful discussion of the Judeo-Christian worldview. What consequences may come from this social-experiment on Western civilization, nobody knows for sure, but the guys have some ideas on what lies ahead. Given the virulence of this moral seed-change, Leroy, Ward and Joe decided to create a series of videocasts dedicated to exposing the barrenness of this new ethical adventure.  The framework for this series is built around the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments: A Stone Reader which was adapted from the NY Times columns of various Philosophers and thinkers hoping to lead this naturalist-revolution. You may be new to Off the Cuff, so feel free to catch up on past episodes. We also encourage listeners to get a copy of the book, read ahead for each week’s show, and join our live broadcast with you questions and insights.

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Introduction

In our post-modern society, traditional beliefs and values are quickly being eroded by a push for pluralism. There is a loss of objective truth and even intolerance for Christian principles. One such principle is the sanctity and personhood of all human life from the time of conception. In recent years many supporters of abortion rights, including actress Scarlett Johansson[1] and former Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton,[2] have advanced the claim that unrestricted access to abortion is no longer just a women’s rights issue but a human rights issue.

Abortion is a topic that every Christian must be prepared to discuss because this practice denies God’s ideal about the basic dignity and value that each human being possesses. If Christians do not get involved in speaking out about abortion, the world will not only continue murdering the unborn, but soon the value of every helpless person’s life will be questioned. As a woman with a personal interest in this topic, I will show how the act of abortion violates the sanctity of life and degrades women.

Abortion & the Law

Traditionally, abortion has been defined as the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. The Roe versus Wade article written by the Editors of Britannica Encyclopedia state:

Roe v. Wade, legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, ruled (7–2) that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional. In a majority opinion written by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the court held that a set of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy…The Supreme Court disagreed with Roe’s assertion of an absolute right to terminate pregnancy in any way and at any time and attempted to balance a woman’s right of privacy with a state’s interest in regulating abortion…. The court placed the point after which a state’s compelling interest in the pregnant woman’s health would allow it to regulate abortion “at approximately the end of the first trimester” of pregnancy… With regard to the fetus, the court located that point at “capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb,” or viability.[3]

In the State’s opinion, the baby could not survive on its own before the first trimester and so abortions could, therefore, be justified before that time. Consequently, life (or personhood) was defined by the court as something that emerges later in the pregnancy when certain properties of survivability are evidenced and not something inherent to the baby.

Nancey Pearcey, author of the book Love Thy Body, addresses the underlying values that promote abortion as a mother’s right. Initially, the argument for abortion stemmed from the French Philosopher Rene Descartes. Pearcey shows that Descartes placed the body in the “lower story” of experience which conceives of the human body as a machine while in the “upper story” Descartes placed the human mind: the realm of thinking, perception, consciousness, emotion and will.[4] Descartes had originally intended his view to be used as a defense of the spiritual against the material. However, some people took Descartes’s philosophy and used it to justify human control over nature, including the body. Therefore, the logic of abortion follows the view that the body is just a machine to be used for whatever ends are most useful. Those who claim to be pro-choice falsely hide behind the veil of science, even though science has already discredited the belief that an unborn fetus is a non-human.

Abortion & Human Rights

Sadly, in today’s news we see that the personhood theory explained by Pearcey in her book is still evolving and expanding its boundaries. According to the January 24th article written by Caitlin O’Kane for CBS News, “New York state has enacted strong new legal protections for abortion rights. The new law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, safeguards rights laid out in Roe v. Wade and other court rulings, including a provision permitting late-term abortions when a woman’s health is endangered”[5] This law was signed on January 22, 2019. Abortion has now been removed from the penal code in the State Law a to health status. A doctor like Kermit Gosnel—acting on nothing more than a woman’s choice to abort her baby up until the moment of birth—is no longer viewed as a criminal but as a hero of women’s rights. Ironically, pro-choicers insist that women’s rights are human rights, but whose rights are they talking about? Are the unborn not human persons as well? And, how can one promote human rights while intentionally terminating a human life, especially the lives of these helpless and innocent babies?

Abortion & its Negative Consequences

Abortion violates the sanctity of life because it strips the unborn of their title as a human person. Pre-born human beings, argue abortion advocates, are humans but not persons. Being a part of the human species is not enough to guarantee a baby rights because the status of “person” must be earned. The Bible rejects this dualistic view that separates the body from personhood. Psalm 139:13–16 talks about God knowing a person before they were even born. From the time of conception, God sees each baby and records every day of their life in His book. Genesis 1:27–28 also says that God created mankind in His image and that they were to multiply: human persons can only produce human persons.

The argument that a fetus is not a human being has already been discredited by science so now it is argued that personhood only occurs when a certain level of cognizance is attained. Until that time the body is just a piece of matter that can be discarded or used for other purposes. However, there is no scientific evidence that proves that a human attains personhood at any certain point in their development. The personhood view has not only impacted abortion but even people with disabilities and the elderly. Abortion is not just about a woman having the freedom to do whatever she wills with her body, but about the legal consent to violate the sanctity of life. All humans, from the time of conception onward; young or old, disabled or disfigured, are persons with the right to live and be accepted into society.

Many authors have referred to the Nazis’ during Hitler’s reign who killed thousands of innocent Jews. This genocide was justified because the Nazis did not believe in the sanctity of life for all people but only for a chosen few. As J.R. Miller observes, the Nazis (inspired by Darwinian science)  believed that there were certain lives that were not worthy of life.[6] Most women who engage in abortion do not realize that this is the same argument for what they are doing. When a woman choses to kill her unborn child, they are saying that this child is not a person worthy of protection under the law and that the mother’s life is more important than that of her unborn child.

Abortion & the Degradation of Women

Even though people like to claim that Christianity is against women, the church has, from its very beginning, served as a counter-cultural Faith that recognized and valued the importance of women. From the start, Christianity has rejected the claim that women are disposable objects. Christianity promoted women to roles of leadership, viewed them as equals in Christ, protected their rights to fertility and honored their rights in marriage. The Apostle Paul encourages men to love their wives and to remain faithful to them (Eph 5:28–31). In the Roman culture, men were free agents, able to have sex with slaves, prostitutes, the poor and powerless. There were no laws to protect the sacredness of women or the sanctity of marriage. Many of these illicit relationships resulted in unwanted pregnancies, hence the need for abortions. Pearcey emphasizes the fact that it is the world, and not Christianity, that is against women. Pearcey observes that abortion and infanticide are practiced in violation of the rights of baby girls. One example is sex-selection abortion which has created a surplus of men in several nations like China and India. The United Nations estimates that 200 million women are demographically missing.[7]  Abortion in many countries is sex-selective and the lives of girls do not carry the same value as those of boys. Outside of a Christian worldview, girls are treated as dispensable whereas men are treated as indispensable.

Another point is that society imposes on women a focus on career that keeps them from embracing motherhood as a genuine success. To achieve higher levels of education and professionalism, women are required to suppress their fertility with birth control—to effectively neuter themselves with toxic chemical during their peak childbearing years.[8]  Women now avoid marriage and turn instead to casual relationships to accommodate their lifestyle. However, by the time they arrive at the stage of wanting to settle down, women face biological problems and health complications.

Abortion is the world saying to women that their lives do not matter, it degrades the uniqueness of who they are, and treats their God given functions as life-givers as a sickness to be cured. Meanwhile, men are encouraged to live their lives to their full potential without consideration for women and the sacrifices that they make to fulfill the desires of men. Abortion should not be accepted because it violates the sanctity of human life and lessens the value and respect that should be given to women.

Conclusion

It is unfortunate that in an effort to promote so-called women’s rights and liberty, women are degraded, forced to harm their bodies, and live lifestyles that suppress their biological design. Women need to be taught that abortion not only goes against God’s design but destroys their own humanity. A woman does not become valuable when scientists agree, or when society says she is useful, or when culture deems her convenient. Every woman is valuable from conception because God has imprinted His image onto each and every one of us. The dignity of all human beings must be protected from the moment they are conceived. Once we divest the human body from personhood, life loses its significance and we open the door to destroy life at all stages of development. Therefore, abortion should not be accepted as a good choice for anyone who wants to elevate and protect women.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Melanie Hunter, “Scarlett Johansson: ‘Abortion is a Human Rights Issue,” CNS News, October 18, 2016, quoted in Nancy. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2018), 1240. Kindle.

[2] CBSN Live, “NY Gov. Coumo, Hilary Clinton discusses abortion rights,” CBS News, January 24, 2019.

[3] The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Roe v. Wade,” Encyclopedia Britannica, December 7, 2018.

[4] Pearcey, Love Thy Body, 844.

[5] Caitlin O’Kane, “New York passes law allowing abortions at any time if mother’s health is at risk,” CBS News, January 24, 2019.

[6] J.R. Miller, “Life Unworthy of Life,” More Than Cake, August 14th, 2012. https://www.morethancake.org/archives/3264

[7] Pearcey, Love Thy Body, 1240.

[8] Ibid., 1316.

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“The only way to propagate
a message is to live it.”
-Jim Wallis

On my first day of work at the local Orting Safeway grocery store, my manager asked me to go to a special three-hour training on how to provide good customer service. I have to admit, I was not too excited about going. After all, I have been a pastor for more than 8 years and I know how to be warm and inviting to people… right? I was fairly certain that Safeway was not going to teach me anything I had not already learned in ministry and I know I can find better stuff to do with three hours of my life. But fortunately, God knows how to work through my pride.

The training seminar was led by Cliff Allison who focused on what it means to provide World Class Service at Safeway stores. He explained that over the last few years most groceries stores have been in decline by an average of 5%, but Safeway, in that same time period, has grown its customer base by 5%. That is a 10% difference! So the question is, why is Safeway growing when other grocery stores are shrinking?  Their growth is not because of lower prices and big bulk items, instead it is because they offer the best customer service. Safeway has beat the odds by teaching all their employees how to serve the customer and treat them with World Class Service.

It is interesting to note that like most grocery stores, the Evangelical Church in America is also in decline. And while I think there are many reasons for this decline, my Safeway seminar got me thinking about how well we, the Church, really serve the people God has given us. 

  1. Do we welcome people with a smile as they enter our fellowship? 
  2. Do we give them the help they need or only give them the help we think they need? 
  3. Do we serve our communities and are we making a real difference that will make people want to come and be a part of our community? 
  4. Do we welcome only the people like us, or are we truly serving everyone?

As we move forward in planting Reunion Church, I am challenged by the Safeway training. I want us to provide our people and community not with World Class Service, but with Kingdom Class Service that will bring the power of the Gospel to our community.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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Off the Cuff #42: Navigating Past Nihilism - YouTube

The guys continue their series through the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments with a discussion of Sean D. Kelly’s chapter on religion: Navigating Past Nihilism. Kelly argues that while God is dead, society need not go the way of nihilism because hope can be found through creating your own unique purpose and meaning. Ward, Leroy and Joe discuss Kelly’s view of meaning. and offer some alternatives from a Christian worldview.

Chapter & Author

This week’s show is built around argument #26 in Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments entitled, “Navigating Past Nihilism.” The author is Sean D. Kelly and his bio provided in the book says Kelly “is Teresa G. and Ferdinand F. Martignetti Professor of Philosophy and former chair of the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and the coauthor, with Hubert Dreyfus, of All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age” (p. 428).

Kelly’s Argument

The modern atheist does not need to interpret Friedrich Nietzsche’s assertion that God is Dead as a fatalistic black-hole of nihilism. God is dead, Kelly argues, because society rightly no longer takes belief in God as the sole foundation for finding meaning. For some atheists, this change may truly become a destabilizing force that traps them in nihilism. For Christians, the faith of suburban religion is an example of self-deception and fanaticism that best embodies the trap of nihilism. However, for women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ+ persons, this societal shift means a new freedoms can—and must—be accepted as worthy based entirely on their own terms. For this latter group, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick serves as the literary response to Nietzsche’s fear and gives the modern person hope that the escape from nihilism is found by creating their own White Whale to sit on the throne left empty by the dead Christian God.

Key Quotes for Today

For it used to be the case in the European Middle Ages, for example, that the mainstream of society was grounded so firmly in its Christian beliefs that someone who did not share those beliefs could therefore not be taken seriously as living an even potentially admirable life. Indeed, a life outside the church was not only execrable but condemnable, and in certain periods of European history it invited a close encounter with a burning pyre. Whatever role religion plays in our society today, it is not this one. For today’s religious believers feel strong social pressure to admit that someone who doesn’t share their religious belief might nevertheless be living a life worthy of their admiration (pp. 141-142). — @Sean_D_Kelly

Kelly defines a religion fanatic:

But to the extent that they [religious people] do not [admire non-believers for their lifestyle choices], then society now rightly condemns them as dangerous religious fanatics rather than sanctioning them as scions of the church or mosque. God is dead, therefore, in a very particular sense. He no longer plays his traditional social role of organizing us around a commitment to a single right way to live. Nihilism is one state a culture may reach when it no longer has a unique and agreed-upon social ground… [but new freedom means…] Social mobility—for African-Americans, gays, women, workers, people with disabilities or others who had been held down by the traditional culture—may finally become a possibility. (p. 142). — @Sean_D_Kelly

Yet, his example of this new freedom is the teachings of the Baptist pastor Martin Luther King Jr. who grounded his worldview in Faith.

On living a life of self-deceit, Kelly argues this is the case with the suburban Christian is self-deceived thinking only those who experience suburban church can be happy:

What would such a self-deceiving life look like? It would be a matter not only of finding meaning in one’s everyday engagements, but of clinging to the meanings those engagements offer as if they were universal and absolute. Take the case of religion, for example. One can imagine a happy suburban member of a religious congregation who, in addition to finding fulfillment for herself in her lofty and ennobling religious pursuits, experiences the aspiration to this kind of fulfillment as one demanded of all other human beings as well…. For [this kind of religious fanaticism] stands in constant tension with the demand in the culture to recognize that those who don’t share your religious commitments might nevertheless be living admirable lives (p. 144). — @Sean_D_Kelly

What does give meaning then for the modern person?

The meaning that one finds in a life dedicated to “the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side, the country”—these are genuine meanings. They are, in other words, completely sufficient to hold off the threat of nihilism, the threat that life will dissolve into a sequence of meaningless events. But they are nothing like the kind of universal meanings for which the monotheistic tradition of Christianity had hoped (p. 145). — @Sean_D_Kelly

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is the precursor that gives us hope that this new world without God need not lead to Nihilism.

The new possibility that Melville hoped for, therefore, is a life that steers happily between two dangers: the monotheistic aspiration to universal validity, which leads to a culture of fanaticism and self-deceit, and the atheistic descent into nihilism, which leads to a culture of purposelessness and angst. To give a name to Melville’s new possibility—a name with an appropriately rich range of historical resonances—we could call it polytheism. Not every life is worth living from the polytheistic point of view—there are lots of lives that don’t inspire one’s admiration. But there are nevertheless many different lives of worth, and there is no single principle or source or meaning in virtue of which one properly admires them all. Melville himself (p. 145). — @Sean_D_Kelly

Related Stories or Books Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality by James Davison Hunter & Paul Nedelisky

Why efforts to create a scientific basis of morality are doomed to fail

In this illuminating book, James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky recount the centuries-long, passionate quest to discover a scientific foundation for morality. The “new moral science” led by such figures as E.O. Wilson, Patricia Churchland and Joshua Greene is only the newest manifestation of an effort that has failed repeatedly. Though claims for its accomplishments are often wildly exaggerated, this new iteration has been no more successful than its predecessors. Hunter and Nedelisky argue that in the end, science cannot tell us how we should live or why we should be good and not evil, and this is for both philosophical and scientific reasons.

In the face of this failure, the new moral science has taken a surprising turn. Whereas earlier efforts sought to demonstrate what is right and wrong, the new moral scientists have concluded that right and wrong, because they are not amenable to scientific study, don’t actually exist. Their (perhaps unwitting) moral nihilism turns the science of morality into a social engineering project. If there is nothing moral for science to discover, the science of morality becomes, at best, a program to achieve arbitrary societal goals.

Concise and rigorously argued, Science and the Good is a major critique of a would-be science that has gained too much influence in today’s public discourse, and an exposé of that project’s darker turn

Get the book…

Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. Wielenberg

Suppose there is no God. This might imply that human life is meaningless, that there are no moral obligations and hence people can do whatever they want, and that the notions of virtue and vice and good and evil have no place. Erik J. Wielenberg believes this view to be mistaken and in this book he explains why. He argues that even if God does not exist, human life can have meaning, we do have moral obligations, and virtue is possible. Naturally, the author sees virtue in a Godless universe as different from virtue in a Christian universe, and he develops naturalistic accounts of humility, charity, and hope. The moral landscape in a Godless universe is different from the moral landscape in a Christian universe, but it does indeed exist. Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe is a tour of some of the central landmarks of this under-explored territory.

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Quote from Wielenberg’s book mentioned in today’s show:

…the goal of this book is not to determine whether naturalism is true or false… naturalism does not have some of the ethically repugnant implications that are often ascribed to it…[Yet] The naturalist can and should recognize that at least some human lives have internal meaning and that there are various moral obligations in virtue of an individual’s position in the universe (p. 158).

Wielenberg rejects the view that is proposed in this show by Kelly:

There is a third interpretation, for a human life to have meaning is for it to be good for the person who lives it and for it to include activity that is worthwhile… [In this view] The internal value of an individual’s life is directly proportional to the degree to which that individual is engaged in desired activity…. If Taylor’s view about what gives life internal meaning is correct, then philosophical reflection, by taking away Tolstoy’s passion for living, rendered him unable to live an internally meaningful life. If Taylor is right, then the moral of the story of Tolstoy is: Don’t think too hard about whether your life has meaning, or you may find that the very pondering of the question has given the question a negative answer (p. 15–21).

Here Wielenberg outlines his own approach to finding intrinsic meaning: 

…even if we reject the details of Aristotle’s proposal, we can accept Aristotle’s insight. If there are activities available to us during our lifetimes that are intrinsically valuable, then our lives can have internal meaning even if God does not exist… I have nothing particularly insightful or novel to say… how can I justify my list of intrinsically worthwhile activities? I am afraid I have no philosophical proof… The method I recommend for deciding which activities are intrinsically good is a version of G. E. Moore’s isolation test described in Section 1.4: To see if an activity is intrinsically good, consider whether you would find it worthwhile even if it had absolutely no consequences. If it seems to you that it would be worthwhile, then you have a good candidate for an intrinsically good activity on your hands (pg. 34–35).

Phoenix restaurant says this is a photo of coal miners. But I see offensive blackface

A few weeks ago, I attended a holiday party at a downtown Phoenix restaurant. I walked around to view the photographs on the wall.

Then a photograph caught my attention.

Friends said, “It’s coal miners at a pub after work.” It was a photograph of coal miners with blackened faces. I asked a Latinx and white woman for their opinion. They said it looked like coal miners at a pub after work. Then they stepped back, frowned and said it’s men in blackface…. Fact: The photograph shows coal miners’ faces covered in soot. The context of the photograph is not the issue.

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A Bold New Theory Proposes That Humans Tamed Themselves: A leading anthropologist suggests that protohumans became domesticated by killing off violent males.

This article is a review of Richard Wrangham’s book, The Goodness Paradox where he does some fancy “philosophizing with data” to offer a new theory:

In his third book, The Goodness Paradox:The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution, he deploys fascinating facts of natural history and genetics as he enters a debate staked out centuries ago by Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (among other philosophers), and still very much alive today: how to understand the conjunction of fierce aggression and cooperative behavior in humans. Why are we so much less violent day-to-day within our communities (in pretty much all cultures) than our closest primate relatives, chimpanzees, are within theirs? At the same time, how is it that human violence directed toward perceived enemy groups has been so destructive?….

Wrangham draws on this trove of material as he pursues yet another ambitious hypothesis: “Reduced reactive aggression must feature alongside intelligence, cooperation, and social learning as a key contributor to the emergence and success of our species.” (By reactive aggression, he means attacking when another individual gets too close, as opposed to tolerating contact long enough to allow for a possible friendly interaction.) He also applies his evolutionary logic to studies of a wider array of animals. He dwells in particular on some marvelous experiments that explore the taming of wild foxes, minks, and other species by human-directed artificial selection over many generations.

Such breeding efforts, Wrangham notes, have produced “the domestication syndrome”: a change in a suite of traits, not just the low reactive aggression that breeders have deliberately singled out. For instance, in a fox study begun in Russia in the early 1950s, the pups in each litter least likely to bite when approached by humans were bred forward. Yet a variety of other features appeared in tandem with docility, among them a smaller face with a shortened snout and more frequent (less seasonally circumscribed) fertile periods, as in some other similarly domesticated species.

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This is Water by David Foster Wallace

Greetings parents and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story thing turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

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The Absurdity of Life without God by William Lane Craig

The Necessity of God and Immortality

Man, writes Loren Eiseley, is the Cosmic Orphan. He is the only creature in the universe who asks, “Why?” Other animals have instincts to guide them, but man has learned to ask questions. “Who am I?” man asks. “Why am I here? Where am I going?” Since the Enlightenment, when he threw off the shackles of religion, man has tried to answer these questions without reference to God. But the answers that came back were not exhilarating, but dark and terrible. “You are the accidental by-product of nature, a result of matter plus time plus chance. There is no reason for your existence. All you face is death.”

Modern man thought that when he had gotten rid of God, he had freed himself from all that repressed and stifled him. Instead, he discovered that in killing God, he had also killed himself. For if there is no God, then man’s life becomes absurd.

If God does not exist, then both man and the universe are inevitably..

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“church becomes Church
when you move beyond affinity.”
– Bill Clem

Working as a bi-vocational church planter, has given me some of the best opportunities to learn about God’s love for the lost. Just a few days into my job at Safeway and I had the opportunity to meet Bill. Or should I say, Bill met me… Bill is a friendly guy, but at first glance you would not give him much attention. He walks slowly and his speech is slurred from a palsy that also causes his hands to tremor when he shakes your hand. Bill showed some immediate interest in coming to our church’s meetings and I have to admit that part of me wanted to say “no”. Yeah, I realize that makes me look like a jerk for even feeling that way, but still the feeling was there. But I overcame that urge and invited Bill to come and join us for one of our Saturday Night Reunion meetings. It turns out; Bill is a great guy who is in desperate need of a caring community. His wife has recently passed away, and he is lost and looking for meaning in his life. Bill may not even know it yet, but he is looking for Jesus. Bill is exactly the reason I am planting this church and I am so glad God gave him to me.

The most interesting thing about Bill is that he does not fit into any of the demographics that make church planting organizations get excited. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked by potential partners, “who is your target audience?” or “what group are you trying to reach?” I have always resisted answering that question and, in part, Bill is a good reminder why. I have never met a church planter or a pastor who said a guy like Bill is their target demographic. Everyone wants to reach the middle class, middle age, middle American, but who is out there reaching the Bills of our world—you know, the folks who don’t exactly fit into our “ideal” demographic? For those of you in the know, let’s just say that Bill is no “Saddleback Susie” or “Saddleback Sam”.

All this makes me wonder, do we still value church in the cracks? I sometimes think that in our fervor to reap a harvest for God’s Kingdom, we have put more value in reaching “blocks” of people more than people themselves. But what about the people who don’t fit into the big blocks? What about the people in the cracks?

  • Do we in the church tend to look for the biggest needs amongst the largest groups of people so that our time, effort and money will reap the biggest numerical growth?
  • Do we value only the needs that have an easy formulaic or pragmatic solution?
  • Do we look to mega-church programs and pre-packaged studies because they really meet the needs of people we know or because they meet the needs of a targeted demographic?
  • Do we minister based on our intimacy with the lost or our on our knowledge of the latest Barna survey?

I just can’t help but wonder if we have not missed something or someone. How many “Bills” have we overlooked or undervalued? What about the needs of those not in the majority? Who is reaching out to the people who don’t fit into our surveys and demographic studies? What about the people in the cracks? Where is the church in the cracks?

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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